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Gandhi son-in-law not corrupt, says Indian government

Robert Vadra, a businessmen married to the daughter of the ruling Congress party chief, has denied the accusations levelled by Arvind Kejriwal, a member of the India Against Corruption movement.

NEW DELHI // The Indian government ruled out an inquiry into allegations of improper dealings between the son-in-law of India's most powerful politician, Sonia Gandhi, and property developer DLF Ltd, even as the firm's shares plunged on the claims.

Robert Vadra, a businessmen married to the daughter of the ruling Congress party chief, has denied the accusations levelled by Arvind Kejriwal, a member of the India Against Corruption movement.

Mr Kejriwal has accused Mr Vadra of using his political clout to secure FOR DLF land originally allotted to a hospital, being compensated for his efforts with real estate in and around New Delhi at rates far below market value and an interest-free, unsecured loan of 650 million rupees (Dh45m).

"I used to work in the income-tax department, and any case with so many revelations warrants an income-tax raid," said Mr Kejriwal, who is setting up an anti-corruption political party, at a news conference yesterday. The claims were detailed in a document posted on the group's website.

Shares in DLF, which has also denied the allegations, plummeted 7.3 per cent on Monday, posting the company's biggest daily fall since February 22 and wiping US$576 million (Dh2.1bn off its market value. Traders said investors were spooked by the allegations.

The government insists that any contractual arrangements between DLF and Mr Vadra are private and not subject to an inquiry.

"Unless there is a specific allegation of quid pro quo or corruption, I am afraid private transactions cannot and ought not to be allowed to be questioned on the basis of imputations and insinuations," the finance minister, P Chidambaram, said at a news conference on Monday.

In a statement released during the weekend, DLF insisted that its relationship with Mr Vadra was "completely transparent".

Mr Vadra, who married Priyanka Gandhi in 1997, issued a short four-paragraph statement on Sunday, calling Mr Kejriwal's charges "utterly false, entirely baseless, and defamatory".

The businessman condemned what he said were attempts to "deliberately misrepresent numbers contained in my financial statements, manufacture lies and malign my family to gain cheap publicity for them and for the launch of their political party".

As a member of India's widely revered "first family", Mr Vadra is close to the centre of power. Sonia Gandhi is known to play a major role in decision-making on big policy issues and her son, Rahul, is seen by many in the Congress party as a strong contender to be the next prime minister.

Sanjay Sharma, the managing director of Qubrex, a real-estate company, knows the New Delhi and Gurgaon markets. He said that politically connected people are invaluable for builders who required the speedy project approvals or needed the authorities to turn a blind eye when construction norms were flouted.

"So it isn't really a question of a few million rupees for these guys," he said. "For the builder, these benefits can be worth billions of rupees."

ssubramanian@thenational.ae

With additional reporting by Reuters